Submitted by Cathy Cuff-Coffman

This is Part 3 of Cathy’s multi-part blog series, documenting journey with a Baclofen pump implantation.

Inpatient Rehabilitation: Establishing Rapport and Routine

Yesterday (Friday, March 8) was my third day at Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Hershey. Since I was a former patient for two months in March 2020, the routines (minus the COVID precautions) were familiar.

Unlike 2020, however, the large rehab gym was bustling with patients in various stages of recovery. As I looked around, seeing people struggling, it hit me: “I was one of those people struggling,” I thought.

Because when I arrived in 2020, I couldn’t feed myself, sit up for any length of time, and had no realistic hope of walking.

But within two months, the dedication of the rehab staff, my willingness to push beyond my boundaries, and the faith I’ve always had gave me the strength and ability to walk out of rehab with a walker.

So, as I was wheeled to my PT station, I felt enormous hope for my fellow “re-habbers.” I listened to cheerful chatter from the staff and patients. Even as a “newcomer,” I instantly felt at home and ready to work—to break through the armor that had seized my body.

Penn State Hershey’s routine is probably like other inpatient rehabilitation centers. Sessions are doled out in 45-minute increments. Yesterday, I had four sessions: two PT and two OT.

However, unlike my stay in March 2020 during the COVID lockdown, yesterday and today (Saturday) included a 45-minute group therapy session. Yesterday, six of us played the card game “Uno.” The goal wasn’t to win the game but rather to stand while we were playing.

We didn’t know each other, but the shared goal of working on standing made playing a children’s card game fun, and for me, I felt more at ease at Saturday’s group exercise therapy session.

These past few days I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with staff here during March 2020. Two aides, Amy and Carla, rushed into the therapy gym and flashed the “sign” I used to make for the trio of cervical collar wearers: “The C-Spine Gang.” I had a long catch-up session with Jason, the recreation therapist, and reminisced about therapists and rehab aides that have moved on.

I’m writing this entry on Saturday afternoon. I had my first real shower since my surgery (up until today, it’s been sponge baths). We had the aforementioned PT group therapy session. I couldn’t perform all the tasks, but that’s why I’m here.

I’ve also had the opportunity to share the work that I do for The Fund. I’ve got my MacBook Pro here, and I had someone take my picture in my #Shalieve shirt. “Don’t worry; it’s for work!” I said.

A few therapists asked what I did for work and why I wrote during my stay.

That gave me the chance to explain Ryan’s story, The Fund’s mission, values, and outreach, and spread the word about the work The Fund does.